Anderson, SC - For the first time in South Carolina history, a Facility Dog has been used to assist during live trial testimony in a courtroom.  Roma, the first courthouse Facility Dog in South Carolina, made her debut in the courtroom today when she accompanied a witness as she testified on the stand.  The Honorable J. Cordell Maddox ruled in favor of the State’s motion made by Assistant Solicitor Lauren Price to allow Roma to assist in the trial against Robert Joe Frost.  Frost is being tried on charges of murder, attempted murder, first degree burglary, armed robbery, and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.   

 

“Roma is trained to bring calm and strength to victims and witnesses in what can be one of the most difficult times of their life,” said Solicitor Chrissy Adams.  “Her presence today gave a key witness the comfort and courage to get on the stand and face a violent murderer.  Cases like today are why we brought this program to Anderson and we look forward to utilizing Roma in the courtroom more in the future.” 

 

Roma joined the 10th Circuit Solicitor’s Office in November of last year and since that time has been working in the Anderson office with her handler Assistant Solicitor Chelsey Moore.  In addition to being used during trial, Roma assists at the Child Advocacy Center in Anderson, has sat in countless witness and victim interviews, and has even assisted defendants during pleas as well.  While courtroom dogs are a growing practice across the country, Roma is currently the only courthouse Facility Dog in South Carolina. 

 

 

(Walhalla, SC). James William Toward was sentenced to 48 years in prison today for the murder of Scott Johnston in 2014, as well as kidnapping and burglary, 1st degree. Trial was set for Monday of this week when Toward chose to enter a guilty plea to all charges. The prosecutor in the case was Deputy Solicitor David Wagner. The defendant was represented by Gordon Senerius of Anderson, SC. 

 

On January 2, 2014, law enforcement was called to Ames Street in Seneca. When officers arrived they found the victim, Scott Johnston lying on the floor deceased. A second victim, Jody Corley, was tied up and laying on her stomach on the floor near Johnston. She was transported to Oconee Memorial Hospital due to gunshot wounds.  Ms. Corley identified the perpetrators as neighbors living across the street, one of which was James Toward. The two neighbors were taken to the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office for interviews. According to statements made at that time, the defendants needed money for rent and broke into the house to steal items to get the money. Mr. Johnston was awakened by the burglary and Toward chased him into a bedroom where shots were fired. During a subsequent struggle for the gun with Toward, Ms. Corley was shot in the foot. Shell casings, bloody clothes and stolen items were removed from the scene as the two fled.

 

“Today’s guilty plea allows the families of Scott Johnston and Jody Corley to see justice delivered for the unbearable pain and loss that James Toward put them through and ensure that the man who murdered Mr. Johnston is sent to prison for the next 48 years,” said Solicitor Chrissy Adams. 

 

(Anderson, SC).Tonight in Anderson County a jury found Royres Patterson guilty of Murder, Attempted Murder and Possession of a Weapon during the Commission of a Violent Crime. The Honorable Scott Sprouse sentenced Patterson to 30 years for Murder, 20 years concurrent for Attempted Murder and 5 years consecutive for Possession of a Weapon during the Commission of a Violent Crime. The case was tried over three days by Assistant Solicitors Lauren Davis Price and Chelsey Moore. The defendant was represented by local attorney Bruce Byrholdt.  

 

On June 7, 2014 Brandon “Jugg Money” Willingham was shot to death in a drive-by shooting in Anderson County by Royres Patterson. He also shot Rayshawn Cowan four times during the same incident. At trial, it was revealed that this was in retaliation for the shooting of Anthony Patterson, the defendant’s brother, the night prior by someone strongly resembling the victims. Two eyewitnesses who were in the car with Patterson testified at trial along with another eyewitness from the scene, multiple law enforcement officials and expert witnesses.  

 

 “Street “justice” is not justice and must be dealt with in a court of law,” stated Solicitor Chrissy Adams. “Brandon Willingham lost his life because Royres Patterson thought revenge was justice. Real justice was the guilty verdict rendered by the jury today. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the victims and to the community who lost a promising young artist in his prime.”

 

(Anderson, SC). Riley McDermott pled guilty today in Anderson General Sessions Court to 3 counts of Felony DUI with Death and 2 counts of Felony DUI with Great Bodily Injury. The Honorable Cordell Maddox sentenced McDermott to 18 years in prison. 

 

On November 8, 2014, twenty-four year old Riley McDermott, an assistant basketball coach at Anderson University, was driving a Ford F150 south on Williamston Road when he crossed the centerline colliding with a Nissan Altima carrying 5 people. According to the SCHP accident reconstruction reports, the defendant was traveling at a rate of 73 mph. The posted speed limit at the scene was 35 mph. Three people in the Nissan were killed. Two passengers in the Nissan were transported to AnMed in critical condition. McDermott and his passenger were also transported to AnMed.   

 

Upon arrival at the scene, officers from Anderson Police Department witnessed the defendant exiting his truck and falling to the ground. They noticed a strong odor of alcohol and observed him to have slurred speech. McDermott told the officers he had been at a bar drinking and repeatedly said, “I screwed up”. At AnMed, a blood sample was taken from the defendant which was subsequently tested by SLED, revealing a BAC of .187%. A video from one of the bars the defendant and his friend had visited on the night of the incident, as well as credit card records and a receipt found at the scene, later confirmed that the defendant had been drinking the night of the crash.  

 

During the course of the investigation,  an officer who was with the Anderson Police Department at the time was found to have made false statements regarding attempts to contact a magistrate to get a search warrant for the blood of the defendant. This officer then used exigent circumstances as his basis for taking the blood without a warrant. Phone records showed that the calls to the magistrate had never taken place. The officer’s deception during the investigation made the admission of the blood as evidence a major factor in the negotiations in this case. The officer has now been charged with Misconduct in Office and is no longer employed with any law enforcement agency. The collection of evidence in this case was substantially affected by his involvement as lead officer.  

 

Although the actions of one officer made the prosecution of this case difficult, thanks to the efforts of the Anderson Police Department, particularly Captain Kevin Warren, there was sufficient admissible evidence to support the plea which took place today.  

 

“Mrs. White and I have examined every detail of what we each believe would come out or be suppressed at trial,” stated Assistant Solicitor Lauren Price at the plea hearing.  “This has been a very extensive negotiation process between the parties.  I am sickened and saddened that the selfish actions of one individual has affected so many today by crippling the State’s ability to secure what would have been a lengthier sentence in this case.  The plea today is a reflection not of the efforts of Law Enforcement as a whole, or the diligence of the State to prosecute this matter.  This tragedy has been magnified by the damage to the ability to fully prosecute these charges, but in light of the circumstances, this negotiation, and plea today, are the best and right result we can reach.”   

 

Solicitor Chrissy Adams

Tenth Circuit Solicitor